Sunday, May 10, 2015

Faith in science education

We live in a land of magic and ignorance, where faith trumps the seemingly more mundane business of living--faith in a supernatural world, faith in life-saving technology, faith in a life lived on screens, faith in faith.

The practice of science holds immense power--there's a reason politicians and economists push STEM--but they confound science with faith in science.

Technology is not science.
Learning the vocabulary of mitosis is not science.
Building bridges from toothpicks and marshmallow is not science.
"Knowing" the Earth revolves around the Earth is not science.

The Church of Science Education works much like most churches of western civilization. Wow the faithful with rituals, create awe through virtual stained glass and incense, and have them recite the sacred scrolls "for understanding."

Anything that separates our children from the natural world lessens their chances of knowing science. Much of what we call science in school does just that. Over and over and over again.

Should I have faith in the Next Generation Science Standards?


Cush Copeland said...

I may have posted this comment on you site before but at the beginning of each school year, I ask my high school science students to write down their definition of science.

In the follow up and answer to my own question, I hold up the textbook and tell them "This is not science".

I don't know how many of them take that to heart (distracted as they are by their devices) but it's a major theme of my teaching point of view (pedagogy, if one needs jargon to relate).

I am totally disheartened by so many efforts to throttle science at any level (NASA's starved earth science budget, Wyoming's recent bill to restrict citizens from documenting environmental damage, and on and on...).

I could retire but I just feel like that I would be abandoning a generation that I don't think is getting that same message from most of its science teachers.

doyle said...

Dear Cush,

Teaching science remains a worthwhile (and often difficult) goal. Why else teach?

Still, it's scary what passes for science in man classrooms.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mary Ann Reilly said...

It wasn't until I had finished formal schooling that I began to understand that I could cultivate an interest in science without having to pass a test first. I didn't know that being curious, learning ways to observe, hypothesizing, testing, and revising were all aspects of naming the world. It's funny but a cheap magnifying glass has held my interest as an adult far more than all the expensive equipment at schools that I was forced to use.

The compartmentalizing of life into subjects has value at times for sure. But we so often fail to initiate learners into more holistic ways of coming to know. Science art poetry feel familiar now. i love the differences each allows me to know and how perspectives can and do align, sometimes.

Schooling privileges separating the earth, and all its inhabitants, from ourselves. I just came in from planting some herbs. Rooting around in dirt beneath morning sunlight and a little water from a hose. Such simple play that is oddly compelling.

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

Schooling privileges separating the earth, and all its inhabitants, from ourselves.


We are of the earth, and we share the same needs and fates of its inhabitants.

Separation from what is part of our essence is dangerous, and (I suspect) a big part of why our culture is so blindly cruel.